This is the conclusion I’m drawing from using social media for learning. If people have negative experiences with using social media in their organizations–if people are behaving unprofessionally or inappropriately–I think that there’s something a lot deeper going on that social media is simply bringing to the surface.
We assumed that this would be an environment for civil, professional discussions and never put in any limitations or rules. It seems that this approach worked through modeling appropriate behaviour by both facilitators and members. I have found this group of over 700 members to be polite and even caring for each other. It has been a real pleasure following the learning paths and stories in the blogs and discussion forums.
So why do we see many instances of bad behaviour online? Perhaps some of these forums with nastier comments are just places to vent. Maybe people cannot freely express their opinions at work or at school, or perhaps they feel that no one is listening.
Are social networks within organisations more difficult to nurture because 1) the organisation itself may be dysfunctional and 2) individuals recognize this dysfunctionality and 3) this tension may become evident in an online social network. Therefore, when management decides to create a place for an online community they naturally put in rules and workers naturally won’t open up because of these rules. These same workers/students/citizens vent their frustrations in the more open and wild discussion forums such as YouTube comments or CBC news stories (both of which I’ve given up reading).
Of course, this is a completely untested hypothesis.